Marching to Vegas: Washington Out-Frustrating Opponents on Road to 4-0Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2013
From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.
A few months ago, while watching a dog-days, locally-broadcast San Francisco Giants game with my roommate, we witnessed a four-pitch walk. As former baseball players, we both recognized the innate frustration within the competitive-less play. And seeing as this was a local and homered broadcast, our own commentary was necessary and grew into a conversation about the most frustrating plays in sport. Quickly we came up with the following list: offensive rebound, double fault, gutter ball, three-and-out, charge, catcher’s interference, missed PK, bases loaded double play, shorthanded goals, a member bounce. Sports have a manner of ripping your heart out in a moment’s notice and a manner of getting your hair out of your scalp.
But back to the list and its first item. On Wednesday I watched the new look Washington Huskies grind their way to a fourth consecutive Pac-12 win. That game turned into a defensive battle, one that the Huskies managed to maintain a lead in largely due to the remarkable talents of C.J. Wilcox (23 PPG in conference, 25 against CU). But Tad Boyle, along with every other Buff quoted in this article, spoke extensively on the gut-wrenching, game-wrecking, momentum-sucking offensive rebounds collected by UW. On the whole, 15 were collected by the purple team who grab those annoyances at a 38% clip – best in the conference. Following that game, I got to discussing momentum and its inability to be quantified. We can understand possession-by-possession efficiencies and their effect on a game. However – and this is where it gets interesting – can we quantify that ill-advised three that drops and blows the roof off? The charge that leads to a four-point swing? The open-court dunk? These can be moments that define games and sometimes seasons (we’ll see just how that monitor discussion ultimately affects Colorado). And while a solitary offensive rebound isn’t going to define a ton, regularly collecting them could. It’s debilitating to an opponent’s game plan and just a good old ass pain. But among the top 30 offensive rebounding teams in the nation (by rate), just 13 are ranked teams. Looking deeper into, say, upsets, Oregon was outrebounded by Arizona whilst beating them. Wisconsin was doubled on the offensive boards by Indiana in Bloomington on Tuesday night; yet the Badgers still managed to win.
By the aforementioned numbers, it would seem my hypothesis is incorrect. There seems to be little pattern with regards to offensive boards and a correlation to winning. Not even the ability to limit your opponents’ offensive boards seems to have a direct correlation. But just like we discussed last week, a multitude of factors contributes to the success of a basketball team just as a multitude of resources must contribute to the proving of a given hypothesis. For the latter, I read up on a far deeper study. Here they clearly define that winning is a composite of doing multiple things well. One of these is securing the offensive board; along with shooting well (high FG%), securing the ball (low TOs), and getting to the free throw line. In short – and by no shocking means – gain possessions, don’t give up possessions, take advantage of those possessions.
To that effect, the Huskies have done the best job among conference foes in gaining offensive boards but they’re fourth in TO%, ninth in FT rate, and are eighth in eFG%. So… do the numbers suggest that Washington has hoaxed their way to a 4-0 conference lead by the effectiveness of a single skill – the most annoying and debilitating of them all? I’d have to say yes, a stunning combination of increased possessions and insanity from CJ Wilcox has allowed UW this fascinating start. Of course I’d be silly not to mention that yielding just 0.88 points per possession is pretty darned impressive and the primary rationale for calling them the new-look Dawgs. Do you realize that a LoRo team has never had a conference defensive efficiency below 96.0? Four games in they’re at 88.0. And so perhaps we find ourselves back where we were just a week ago – discovering that the ASU Sun Devils, for all their tempo talk, are simply playing great defense. For all my talk of momentum and capturing it and can we define it by the offensive rebound, we find that the Huskies are just locking down on D. Channeling their inner Justin Wilcox and just getting stops.
Washington’s season will likely normalize. They’re not going to hold teams to that minuscule of a possession-by-possession effectiveness and they’ll likely yield a few of those extra rebounds to an opponent. But for now, the Dawgs are the leaders in annoyance, possessors of the most frustrating play in sport. And the four-pitch walk still sucks.